The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has alerted Central and State agencies to the possibility of international traffickers concealing illegal drug consignments in the cargo of COVID-19 protective equipment to evade detection. The alert has been sounded on the basis of inputs from the Interpol.
“The Interpol inputs are about drug traffickers taking advantage of the global pandemic due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” an official said.
Among the Central enforcement agencies, the Narcotics Control Bureau, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the Customs have the mandate to seize illegal narcotics and drugs. The Enforcement Directorate is empowered to probe the money-laundering aspect.
Security forces deployed along the international borders and coasts, including those of the Coast Guard, the Border Security Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Sashastra Seema Bal, often intercept illicit drug consignments. In the States and the Union Territories, the police have dedicated units for operations against drug-trafficking syndicates.
“The international drug-traffickers, particularly those from Pakistan, have of late been using the sea route. Therefore, it is necessary to intensify patrolling in high seas, and for that, more high-speed interceptor boats should be deployed,” said a government official.
According to a Union Home Ministry reply in the Lok Sabha in December last, there was no proposal to create a Central security force for the high-level security of coasts. The Ministry said it was implementing the coastal security scheme in phases for strengthening the infrastructure of the coastal police force for patrolling and surveillance of coastal areas, especially shallow waters close to the coast. Phase-I of the scheme was implemented during 2005-2011; based on a vulnerability/gap analysis, Phase-II was formulated for implementation from April 2011 to March 2020.
The scheme provided for 204 coastal police stations, 429 boats, 60 jetties, 284 four-wheelers, 554 two-wheelers, 97 checkpoints, 58 outposts and 30 barracks, along with navigation/communication equipment, card-readers, equipment that enhances night operation capabilities of boats and computer systems and allied equipment in the coastal States and Union Territories on an outlay of ₹2,226 crore.
The Interpol has also issued a warning that criminal organisations are using food delivery services to smuggle drugs and other illicit goods during the global lockdown. It received reports from the police in Ireland, Malaysia, Spain and the United Kingdom about delivery drivers transporting drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, ketamine and ecstasy.
“In early April, the Spanish national police identified and arrested seven individuals dressed as food delivery drivers in Alicante and Valencia. They were caught delivering cocaine and marijuana by cycle, motorcycle and car — some of the drugs had been concealed in a false bottom of home delivery backpacks,” said the Interpol.
In Ireland, the Gardai officers seized 8 kg of cocaine and two handguns hidden in pizza boxes. In Malaysia, a case emerged of a legitimate food delivery driver having been used as an unwitting drug mule.
“Based on these arrests, as well as incidents in other countries, the Interpol issued a ‘purple notice’ alerting its 194 member countries to this new modus operandi,” said the Interpol.